<br>About 110 persons -- scientists and crew members -- abroad four ships belonging to the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) will continue to be onboard till May 3, said a top official.
"The lockdown has been extended till May 3. So they will continue to be on their ships if signing off is not possible. There is sufficient food stock onboard for them," NIOT Director M.A. Atmanand told IANS.
Atmanand said the two US researchers who were on-board earlier were signed off at Goa and went back through their embassy and Ministry of External Affairs channels.
The four ocean research vessels are: Sagar Nidhi (25 scientists, 30 crew members, sailed out a month ago), Sagar Manjusha (6 scientists, 16 crew members, sailed out on March 19), Sagar Anveshika (5 scientists, 12 crew members, sailed out from Vizag on March 20) and Sagar Tara (4 scientists, 13 crew members, sailed out on March 22 from Beypore, Kerala).
"The scientists, crew and the vessels are in ship-shape. Some ships will take in supplies at ports and then go back into the sea," D. Rajasekhar, Project Director, Ship Management Group, told IANS.
According to Rajasekhar, the people onboard are in constant touch with their family members through their phones as well as the satellite phones in the vessels.
Rajasekhar said Sagar Nidhi reaching Tuticorin will wait for the next scientific mission. The scientists will be signed off if possible or stay onboard.
On the other hand, Sagar Manjusha and Sagar Anveshika will reach Chennai on April 17 for supplies and proceed for scientific mission around April 21.
The fourth ship, Sagar Tara, after completing scientific survey in Lakshadweep Islands will enter Cochin or Baypore for supplies and proceed to Bay of Bengal for scientific measurements, Rajasekhar added.
He said the scientists and the vessel crew are in constant touch with their family members through satellite phones and WhatsApp.
The vessels and scientists have been deployed for different purposes like the laying down of Tsunami warning systems, bathymetric surveys, scientific study for desalination projects (off Lakshadweep Islands) and others.